English cricket has been a laughing stock lately, but the revolution led by Ben Stokes has been nothing short of remarkable.
The red ball’s new England head coach Brendon McCullum has insisted he has nothing on captain Ben Stokes’ aggression after overseeing a stunning 3-0 shutout from his native New Zealand during his first series in charge.
McCullum was known for his dynamic approach when the New Zealand captain and attacking mindset now dubbed ‘Baz ball’, out of respect for his moniker, was on display again in the third Test at Headingley on Monday.
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England, after rain washed away the final morning session, took just 15.2 overs to score the remaining 113 runs they needed to hit a target of 296 for a seven-wicket win that followed a pair of five-wicket triumphs over the World Test champions at Pont Lord’s and Trent.
Jonny Bairstow took a blistering 71 not out on Monday – England’s second-fastest Test of all time – and shared an unbroken 111 with former captain Joe Root (86 not out).
Bairstow’s innings followed a majestic 162 that revived England from deep 6/55 in their opening innings.
It was all a far cry from the timid play that had so often characterized England’s performances in a one-in-17 Test win streak prior to this series – which included a chaotic Ashes Series loss to Australia the last summer.
This rotten comeback led to Root’s resignation as captain after team manager Ashley Giles and coach Chris Silverwood were sacked following the terrible series loss to Ashes Down Under.
McCullum, however, insisted he had “not done much” as England shut out New Zealand.
“I’m aggressive but I think Ben has got me covered,” McCullum told the BBC. “He really pushes the envelope and sends a strong message that this is how the team will play.”
Stokes added: “Coming away with a 3-0 series win against the best team in the world is a pretty special start.
“When I took over this job it wasn’t just about results – it was about changing the mindset of guys towards Test cricket, having fun, enjoying representing your country. Then the results will take care of themselves.
“To say that we did it so quickly is unbelievable.
The rest of the cricketing world was impressed with England’s turnaround. English sportswriter Paul Newman tweeted: “I can’t believe what I’ve watched in the last three tests. Superb from England. Incredible and transformative approach to Test Cricket.
“Yes, there will be bumps in the road but they will keep coming and it will never be boring. Bring India.
Broadcaster Alison Mitchell called it an ‘incredible Test series for England’ while former skipper Michael Vaughan said the new assault could ‘inspire a new generation of Test match cricket fans’
Vaughan also described Bairstow’s stick as being on a “different planet”, after the mid-order star belted 394 runs from 328 balls in the series.
CricViz analyst Ben Jones tweeted: “Smacking the 3-0 WTC winners, with three boring record chases, all involving an element of chaotic comeback. The Ben Stokes & Brendon McCullum era may not get any better, but it still leaves them plenty of room to party.
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson, who missed the second Test with a Covid-19 bout, must have regretted a lack of top-notch runs, including from his own bat.
But although he has missed several New Zealand games in the 12 months since leading the Black Caps to victory over India in the inaugural Test World Championship final through injury at the elbow of a long time, the 31-year-old star drummer had not thought of retiring as skipper.
“I definitely enjoy playing for this band and being their leader,” he said. “It’s been an interesting and challenging time, but the appetite is still there on my part.
“It’s been an amazing series. In all three games we had our chances and we were sometimes ahead of all of them, but thanks to England they chose to counterattack when they were under pressure. and they did it well, especially in this game.
England won’t have long to rest on their laurels, however, with the Covid-delayed final Test of last year’s series against India starting in Edgbaston on Friday.